It is so hard to be a good parent in these troubled times. I’m not sure when or how this happened but families are so broken today and a large percentage of kids are left on their own. Parents who have rules, enforce them, provide, put dinner on a table and expect respect are the parents who get a bad rap these days. Kids who have the whole package envy the kids with parents who don’t care enough to set a time to be home or even care if their kids come home at all. It’s a real struggle and I seem to be losing this battle. When did what is right become wrong and what is wrong become popular. I don’t understand.
My son is 17 today. It took me years to understand I had it all wrong. I thought my job was to shape and grow him. I spent years fighting for who I thought he should be and I missed who he was becoming. We have this idea of how our kids should be as adults and the truth is they grow us more than we could ever grow them. Sometimes I look back and wonder why we had to face a particular growing pain but today I know it’s the hardest situations we face that change and develop us the most. There is always something new to learn. I think the mistake we make as parents is thinking our job is only to teach and we miss out on the most important learning of our lives. Life does not always go the way we plan. People don’t always turn out the way we imagine but do we ever stop and ask ourself, am I who others need me to be? Do I encourage, support, accept, love or do I judge, demean, destroy and discourage? I don’t think we know how important our words and actions are until our kids get older and sometimes by then the patterns we have fallen victim to become harder and harder to change. I am here to remind you that pride should never win. Humble yourself and admit where you have gone wrong and be open to changing so that you can get on a path that feels more right. It’s important to remember we are human and the same goes for our kids as well. All we can do is our best and parenting does not come with a book of instructions. Love your kids exactly how they are in this moment. That is the greatest gift you could ever give. Today I mourn the little boy I remember but I also look forward to the man he is becoming. If only time could slow down…
Parenting is never easy. Everyone thinks they have all the answers and that one way works despite the child you are raising. I am here to tell you that just isn’t true. Kids aren’t born with manuals. We don’t intentionally raise them in a way that causes problems. Sometimes, regardless of what we say or do, kids walk in a way we wish they hadn’t. I’ve never felt a support group around me as a parent. I’ve had critics and finger pointing, blame and isolation but rarely have I felt supported and encouraged. I’ve felt disgrace and shame more than love and support. Everyone pretends that raising kids is easy but guiding someone into their future is a difficult task. It’s a burden that leads to sleepless nights, hours of worry and sometimes a broken heart. We need to reach out to other parents and let them know they are not alone in the struggle. I walk that struggle every, single day. There is no time off, holidays or coffee breaks. I am always a mom regardless of the circumstance. Some days I get it right and other days I face the consequence of the mistakes I’ve made but I always parent with the best of intention and I give everything I have to give. There will always be someone who tells you that you haven’t done enough, maybe even that YOU aren’t enough. Don’t listen to that voice. Find the one quiet voice that will quietly whisper, keep going. I understand. The world will try and persecute you but lift your head out of your shame and walk with grace. Put your faith and trust in God. He will show you the way. You are enough and everything will be okay.
We have these expectations of what life will be. I remember the day I held both of my children in my arms for the first time. I was filled with such excitement and hope but looking back now, I realize how naive I was to not realize the complexity of the years I would have ahead of me. As a young girl, I often thought about getting married and having a family. I remember playing that silly game where I folded paper to fit over my fingers and moved it back and forth to determine the number of kids I would have in the future. As that silly game and my preconceived notions disappeared into reality, I sit here thinking how different raising and mentoring kids is from what I ever imagined. I had no idea the constant battle it would be to navigate through a world that is unforgiving and full of contempt. The dreams of tribes and villages supporting me in my parental journey disappeared in a puff of smoke. Some days it is literally just me fighting for them against a world who enjoys being hypocritical and unkind. I wouldn’t change a thing if I knew then what I have learned now but I would have been more prepared. We are not dismissed of our duties or worries EVER, not even when kids turn 18 and leave the home we provide since the day they were born. The more they walk to and through adulthood, the more serious and difficult our job becomes. Parenting is never easy. We do not win awards for the time and heart we devote to the family we create. We do wear marks of contempt, scorn, disappointment, loneliness, failure and shame as the world points a finger and continues to condemn.
This is is shout-out to all the parents who have done their best. It is a shout out to parents who have been labeled not good enough by the critics of the world. Even now, when the whole world gives up on these kids, I stand feeble but more determined than ever to be their advocate and love them through every difficult time or bad decision they make. I will love them when life is good and I will celebrate every success they ever have. But I will stand by and love them through their failures as well and I will never limit their potential because of mistakes they make. I’ll leave that to the rest of the world. The world can choose contempt and hate but I will choose love every-time. So to all you critics and parents who think you can do better, I have a question for you. Are you part of the village? If not, maybe it is people like you who are the biggest problem of all.
On the hardest days when my heart is breaking, I think back to the hope and love I felt that moment I first cradled them in my arms and just for a moment I let myself go back to a simpler time as I wipe the tear that drips from my eye.
Sometimes I forget where I end and where my kids begin. It is both beautiful and tragic the connection between a mother and a child. Try as I may to disconnect, nights like this it seems nearly impossible. There is a very fine line between being a nagging parent and encouraging independence. I don’t want to spend useless hours worrying about my kids but when they give me reason to worry what choice do I have? I don’t want to stay in their business but when they are slacking in their responsibilities how do I turn my back? With each grouping of years comes a new set of challenges and the teenage years are the most difficult for me. It’s hard to find the sweet spot when someone toggles between striving to be an adult yet acting like an irresponsible child. I pray these nights of worry and insomnia will eventually become a thing of the past but that feeling deep inside my stomach that goes hand in hand with a mother’s intuition is sometimes too painful to ignore. No one talks about the challenges of parenting. We are quick to brag about our kids straight A’s or the award they won in the pool or on the field but how comfortable are we admitting the things that scare us half to death? How often do we support one another when a kid makes a bad choice or neglects responsibilities or gets caught in a series of disappointing lies? How terrifying is it knowing we may have failed them? Who is there to help us survive the hard times, the times we feel we are doing a horrible job and all hope seems to be lost? Who will listen when our heart is pounding violently in our chest and the mind chatter in our head has us spinning out of control? Parenting is not easy especially when we are forced to do it with little or no support. Sure these years will pass but sometimes the days feel painfully long. Reach out and support a fellow parent today. I can only guess how much that could mean to someone struggling to do their best. I see you. I feel you. I understand.
I was walking into the gym as a mom and her son were walking out. “Want to watch me run up the hill mama?” The Mom shook her head no and told him they had to hurry home. I wanted to sit the mom down and look her in eyes and tell her how fast the next few years would fly by. I wanted to tell her the disappointment she would feel 14 years from now when she had to beg her son just to stay in the same room with her for more than five minutes.
This is a reminder that today will be gone before you even get in a full inhale and exhale. Make time for the little things in your life right now because a week from now, a year and especially ten years from now you will wish you made more time for the things and especially people who matter more than anything else. Love your life, love yourself and love the hell out of your family. Take the extra minute to watch your children play. Watch their face light up every time you say yes to making them feel loved and important. Don’t miss your life…not a single second of it. Every moment is a gift. Take it in, bottle it up and be grateful for all you have.
I hardly recognize the boy who lives upstairs. As I lay here listening to the rain gently fall against my window I wonder how I missed it. When did they stop having to pry that boy from my arms when I would bring him to preschool? When did he stop walking up behind me scaring me half to death pretending he was a train whistle? When did he stop running up the driveway to get to the house when the bus would drop him off after school? When did I look up and notice he was so much taller than the day before? When did he stop texting for me from school and stop needing me to help with schoolwork? I spent so many years wanting him to be more independent, more mature… That day is here and I barely remember the in between. He turns 16 today. My heart is half broken because I know how each new year passes faster than the one before. I know how he will disconnect from home and start a life in the world on his own. I can’t see the little boy anymore. He is a young man and he gets his license in one more day. I see his wings excited to fly on their own. I see his confidence and the way he notices girls after school. I notice each fraction of an inch his pants get a little bit shorter. I see him now and I regret not paying more attention before. 16 years have come and gone in the blink of an eye. Just yesterday I was a young mom with two small kids and today my heart is sad as I think about how fast they have grown. They have been my whole life, my greatest concern, the loves of my life, my reason to get this parenting thing right and although they are older, I realize that will never change. I hope once in a while they look back when they pull away. I hope they think about home and see a soft place to fall and know that my love will always be unconditional. I hope they find their place and shine proudly on their own while I watch from the sidelines and bask in their amazing light. Happy birthday to my not so little boy. Slow down. Time moves fast enough. Be happy. Embrace being 16 for this too shall also pass.